Coffee & Conversation with Sarah Sullivan

Happy Friday, everyone! With only 22 days until our On the Road to Sparkling Literature Conference … yeah, I know, only 22 days, where has the time gone? … we are continuing our series of interviews with our awesome speakers! Missed our previous ones? No problem, here’s the links:

Sarah-231x300Today we have the lovely Sarah Sullivan joining us again in the cyber chair. Sarah’s debut novel, All That’s Missing, received a starred review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Her four picture books, include Passing The Music Down, an N.C.T.E. Notable Children’s Book and Bank Street College Best Children’s Book and Once Upon a Baby Brother, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book.  She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College and lives with her husband in Williamsburg, VA.

Sarah will be giving a presentation on Saturday called:

Let the Mystery Be–Finishing Your Novel
Writing a novel is like carrying a Volkswagen on your back through a maze and up a steep mountain, or so it seems. Who can explain the twists and turns a story takes as it goes from initial brainstorm through rough draft to polished manuscript? Using examples from such works as Walk Two Moons, Charlotte’s Web and The Great Gatsby, as well as my own experience in writing All That’s Missing, I’ll look at common threads which explain how writers find a way to tell the stories their hearts implore them to tell.

She first visited us back in 2011 celebrating the release of Passing The Music Down, which Kirkus reviews called “a lovely, resonant offering!”  And now that she’s settled with her favorite coffeehouse beverage, Caffè Americano…


and her favorite snack, nuts, (preferably dry-roasted. No oil or salt, please. Pecans, cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts. She’s completely addicted,) let’s begin!

Okay, Sarah, easy one first. What was your favorite book as a child?


Many Moons, by James Thurber

As a teen?


To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

And now, as an adult?

Too hard. I have a lot of favorites and they change all the time, but these two are always on the list.


The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book

What is your favorite writing how-to book, technique, or website that has helped you improve your craft or provided inspiration?

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

On Writing, by Stephen King

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King – solid practical advice, especially on editing dialogue.

Awesome books! Okay, where’s your favorite place to work?

Usually, my home office, but my husband and I just moved on August 6th, so for now, it’s anyplace I don’t have to look at boxes that are screaming to be unpacked.

How were you inspired to write All That’s Missing?

untitledThe image of a 12-year-old boy meeting his paternal grandmother for the first time kept haunting me. I knew he had been raised by his grandfather on his mother’s side of the family and that there were tensions between the two grandparents, but I didn’t know why. I had to write the book to find out. It’s a story about finding your place in the world and understanding where you came from.

This all sounds terribly serious, but there’s really a lot of humor. Arlo’s grandmother is a bit prickly and she has a friend who is equally as fussy about things. When the two of them get together, the result is comical. I had a great time creating the independent bookstore where Arlo and his friend Maywood plan how to save Arlo’s grandmother’s house from a suspicious stranger. And then, there’s the ghost.

What is your favorite line(s) from this book?

“The thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer for you, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you’d have was a pile of twisted yarn.”

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

Probably exactly what I’m doing.

If you could go back in time and make changes to any of your published books, would you? If so, which one and why?

I could self-edit forever. I wouldn’t change major story lines, but I would continue to tweak and trim, except for PASSING THE MUSIC DOWN and ROOT BEER AND BANANA. I don’t think I would change them.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you have the opportunity to visit any famous deceased author you want. Who do you pick?


Martha Gellhorn – Think of the stories she could tell!

You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

A round trip train ticket to someplace I’ve never been before. Obviously, it wouldn’t be very far away, but I love riding on trains.

What is your favorite quote?

“It’s all copy.” Attributed by Nora Ephron to her mother. Your life is your material. Use it.

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers in only four words, what would they be?

Read much. Be fearless!

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer! Do you . . .

Outline or wing it? Wing it

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?  Zipped, definitely.

Sell by proposal or completed draft?  Completed draft

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?  Editing. Hands down!

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?  Dread it, I’m afraid.

Read Kindle or traditional books?  Traditional.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?  Morning

Music to listen to while writing?  Film scores

* Note to Sarah from Laura: That’s the coolest answer we’ve had yet for that question. I will be asking for more details about which films at the conference. 🙂

Writing tool?  First draft – pen and paper, Editing – laptop

Pair of shoes?  Um. Do I have to wear shoes?

Guiltiest pleasure?  Dark chocolate

Line from a movie?  I’ve answered this one before. I’m afraid it’s still my favorite. “I’ll have what she’s having.”


Note to Sarah from Laura: HILARIOUS line! Very deserving of a repeat.

Thanks for joining us again, Sarah, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

Happy writing and drawing, everyone!

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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4 Responses to Coffee & Conversation with Sarah Sullivan

  1. sarahglenn1 says:

    Thanks so much! It was lovely chatting with you again! I love listening to film scores while I write. I’ll bring a list of my “faves” to the conference!

  2. sarahglenn1 says:

    Reblogged this on sarahsullivanbooks and commented:
    Thanks to Laura Bowers for the invitation to Coffee and Conversation at AS THE ERASER BURNS. Great chatting with you again!

  3. Pingback: Coffee & Conversation with Miranda Paul | As the Eraser Burns

  4. Pingback: Conference Interview Round Up | As the Eraser Burns

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